Thursday, December 3, 2009

Living Our Values Every Day

Coming to terms with the fact that maximizing individual consumption and power over others is incompatible with maximizing the longevity of our species and the well-being of the most number of people, I’ve become increasingly revolted by the overarching promotion of consumption and competition in the socioeconomic system I currently inhabit.

Emotional reactions typically stem from a clash with one’s values. This might suggest that my values have changed, given that it is a major change from how I’ve reacted to fairly similar conditions over most of my life. There is however another, more likely, explanation: I valued the well-being of everyone all along, but mistakenly thought my behavior was in some small way helping (or at least not hurting) the world’s population now and in the future.

This revulsion has two major consequences. First, I find it harder to seek more participation in the feeding frenzy of an economy which gains whether people are hurt or helped. Second, I am motivated to spend more time and effort trying to envision and help create the kind of world I want to live in.

I recently became aware of how strongly what we eat affects both our health and the health of the planet. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods (especially meat) can help us live longer as individuals and dramatically reduce the waste that is making us as dangerous as an Earth-impacting asteroid. Eating more responsibly is one very personal way we can “live our values every day” (a phrase my wife Debbie came up with that spells the acronym “LOVED”). Eating better, traveling less (and depending on less travel by others), and seeking more quality than quantity in what we produce all slow consumption while providing a better life for everyone.

Feeling loved is one thing we can all be attracted to, providing the needed opposite to the revulsion that crudely assigns a motive of hate (if not total indifference) to those who are increasingly poisoning us and other creatures. For me, self-loathing as one of the planet killers is being gradually replaced by self-respect as someone who is changing from that into a planet builder, whose actions match his values.

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